Agenda raises questions about Police Chief
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
A bit of mystery has begun to again swirl around the chain of command for Liberty Hill Police Chief Maverick Campbell, just over a year after supervision of the chief was shifted from City Administrator Greg Boatright to the mayor.
On Tuesday, an item placed on the agenda by Council Member Wendell McLeod was intended to revisit the issue, stating, “Discuss and consider change and amendment of employment contract for Chief Maverick Campbell; providing for Chief Campbell to report directly to City Administrator Greg Boatright effective immediately.”
When the Council reached the item on the agenda, Mayor Rick Hall asked that the item be moved to after the executive session so it could be discussed.
The Council – with members Troy Whitehead and Ron Rhea absent – spent 36 minutes in executive session on deliberation of real property and the situation with Campbell. About halfway through the session, Boatright emerged from the closed session and discussions continued without him.
When the Council returned to open session, it was decided by a 3-0 vote on a motion from McLeod to postpone the decision on who the police chief would report to.
After the meeting, Hall said he shifted the item on the agenda to make sure it was discussed thoroughly.
“We just have to go back and review the city ordinances and look at the employee manual just to make sure whatever changes we make, we make it correctly,” he said. “That’s why the motion was made that way tonight.”
As far as the eventual outcome, Hall said he had no preference on what decision is made.
“My personal feeling is that as long as we’re doing what’s best for the city and helping the city grow, that’s where I’m at, so whether it stays with the mayor or reverts back over to the city administrator, what’s best for the city is what we will make sure we are doing,” he said.
Campbell and Boatright had disagreed on staffing issues for the police department prior to the change made last May by then-Mayor Connie Fuller and the council. From his perspective, Campbell said stories that there had been issues between he and Boatright were not true.
“When they made that last change there was some speculation it signaled a dispute or disagreement at City Hall, that was not the case. Not everyone is going to agree on things, it’s not a perfect world, but we work through those things as a team,” he said, adding he felt he could work under either circumstance.
“I can work for anybody as long as it’s ethical and what they’re asking of me is within the laws that I am responsible for upholding. I respect whatever the decision the governing body makes as far as who I report to. Whatever they decide I respect that decision and it will be business as usual for me,” he said.
Campbell said he didn’t know why the issue had come up again now.
“It just came up,” he said. “I haven’t been briefed as to why or what the reasoning is. I believe that whatever happens it happens for a reason and that’s God’s plan for me. The perception, the speculation that goes along with it when that stuff comes out, that’s just the nature of city business.”
The decision of what color to paint the water tower downtown proved more difficult than expected as council members wrestled with the variety of choices.
Eventually, after five motions were made and failed for lack of a second for color options such as white lotus, dune sand and sand castle, the Council settled on gray – identified as confederate gray on the color palette.
For members of the community expecting a purple tower because of Liberty Hill’s school colors, Public Works Director Wayne Bonnet explained why that was problematic.
“Purple signifies reuse water, which is not something we want people thinking about,” he said. “I’d prefer we don’t go with purple because of that.”
The Council chose to stick with a lighter color, based on the recommendation from Bonnet that it would not show fading as quickly.
The shroud is set to go up on the tower for work to begin soon.
It is likely the new city logo will also go on the tower, so a lighter, more neutral color will help that logo show better depending on what color it is as well.
Unanswered questions regarding the establishment of a social media presence for the city led the Council to table the issue until more details could be shared on the plan.
“I would prefer to have more details and more specifics on the plan before we do this,” said Council member Liz Branigan.
Hall suggested the creation of a social media presence, saying that it was needed to better inform the community about what is going on with the city.
“This would be to include a Facebook page for the city and potentially a Twitter account,” Hall said. “As we get into the technology day and age there are more people following social media and communicating through social media, and as we’re doing more stuff for the city like Fourth of July, Movie in the Park, the Christmas Festival, I think it would be a great opportunity for us to be able to reach more of our citizens, other than just the newspaper, which reaches a good deal of our citizens now but as we’re getting the younger generation moving in, I think they’re more prone to work with social media versus reading the newspaper.”
The Independent currently reaches about 2,000 homes in the city and Liberty Hill ISD, and has a large social media following on Facebook including more than 4,600 followers.
In the newspaper’s promotion of the Movie in the Park May 26, a post promoting the event reached 4,400 users and was engaged by 717 of those.
It was suggested that either a city employee or elected official be designated as the administrator for the site. Questions were raised about exactly who the administrator would be and whether it would be multiple people, and whether the public would be allowed to comment to posts.
“My thought is it would be very city driven, not the gossip, but this is what the city is doing, this is what the event is and what it’s for,” Hall said. “I think it is more to be used as an extra portal for information, and we can lock it down so no one can post on it unless it has been approved by the administrator.”
McLeod opposed setting up any city social media accounts.
“Here lately it seems I’ve seen a lot on the news about problems with it,” he said. “I’m saying let’s don’t do it, because in the end, we’ll probably have to hire two or three people to take care of it.”
At the urging of Hall, the Council approved hiring a code enforcement officer to work alongside Elias Carrasco, who was hired in January as a full time building inspector.
“I know that when we hired Elias (Carrasco) for code enforcement, we moved him into building inspections because of the abundant need for building inspections in the city, and I would like to come back to the council and recommend we fill the position of code enforcement officer with the dual duty of code enforcement and building inspection to help Elias out with inspections and take code enforcement off the police department.”
Code enforcement duties currently fall on the Liberty Hill Police Department, but in researching the issue, Hall felt it would be better to shift that responsibility.
“In talking to neighboring cities that’s something they don’t normally do and we need to try and stay equal with our neighboring cities as we grow into the future.
“It is in our best interest that we have that outside of the police department for safety reasons, so that’s why I asked the council to have that position created so we could keep the police working with public safety and community policing instead of code enforcement,” Hall said.
For his part, Campbell said the job has been getting done through the police department, but it was posing challenges.
“It is a very time-consuming process and there are a lot of intricate details and laws that have to be followed and there’s a lot of records retention and follow up,” Campbell said. “So it is almost as if the officer goes out and initially observes the property, then has to document it, photograph then give a series of notices before it becomes a citation being issued.”
Additionally, Campbell said he felt it was a disservice to the community in terms of customer service when people had to deal with multiple officers on different occasions over the issue.
It also had an impact, according to Campbell, on the department’s relationship with some in the community.
“Unfortunately, law enforcement is typically there when nothing else can be resolved. That’s why we do a lot of community policing and engagement to show the community that we’re approachable and we’re not just there when something goes wrong. What’s happened is a lot of those residences we were doing enforcement action on were people that were actively involved in a lot of our community engagement stuff. It was kind of affecting what we’ve worked so hard on with our community policing side of things.”
The salary range for the new position is $40,000 to $65,000.
The Council unanimously approved sculptor Bob Ragan’s drawings for the statue to be carved for the entrance to Veterans Memorial Park.
As had been planned, the statue will be of a kneeling soldier – which will be lager than life, standing over 5-feet tall, on a stone base, raised off the ground on the current concrete base in place at the entrance to the park.
The statue will depict a helmeted soldier, kneeling with his right hand raised around the barrel of his rifle, which will stand next to his knee. His left hand will be raised over his heart and his head slightly bowed.
The rock has been selected and delivered for initial cutting.
“Next it will be delivered to (Ragan’s) shop and he will begin working on the statue,” Boatright said.